Child Protection and a Child’s Basic Needs

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

The CFCSA says all children have the right to grow up in a safe and healthy home, free from abuse and neglect. There are different types of abuse, including:

  • neglect
  • emotional abuse
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.


A child is normally at the greatest risk of neglect when a parent abuses prescription or street drugs, or has a serious physical or mental illness. All of these conditions can make the challenging job of parenting overwhelming or impossible. A parent who has an addiction or illness may struggle to meet a child’s basic care needs.

It is not acceptable in any circumstances for a parent to be impaired by drugs or alcohol when caring for a child. A parent should never drink to drunkenness when caring for a child. A parent should also avoid using any drugs, even marijuana, around a child, as this can impair the parent’s ability to look after the child. A parent should also never make a child use drugs which are not prescribed for the child by a doctor. All of the above examples are considered child protection concerns under the CFCSA.

A parent must also meet a child’s basic physical needs. These include a stable place to live, weather-appropriate clothes, and enough food for the child to eat three meals a day. The child’s home must be maintained to community standards, have running hot water and heat. Some examples of maintaining a home to community standards include regular house cleaning, regular garbage pickup, routine cleaning of dishes and ashtrays, ensuring pet food and pet feces are not accessible to young children, and ensuring that a child cannot access prescription medication or drug paraphernalia. If a parent cannot ensure the child’s home meets this standard, it can be considered a protection concern under the CFCSA.

A child’s basic medical needs must also be met. example, regular visits to a dentist and visits to a doctor if a child becomes ill. A parent must also follow a doctor’s recommendations for a child’s health care and ensure that all medication prescribed by the doctor is taken in the way the doctor recommends.

If you are struggling to meet a child’s basic needs, there are different organizations you can ask for help. If a parent is struggling with addiction or mental health issues, there are drug and alcohol counseling programs and mental health programs in every community in B.C. Food banks can help provide food for a family. There are organizations that can help someone find stable and affordable housing. If you cannot maintain the child’s home to community standards due to illness, talk to a doctor or public health nurse to see if you can get help with housekeeping and cleaning. Whatever the issue, a parent who example, the child may be always angry, sad, nervous, worried, or withdrawn, even when the child is in a safe place.

If you are involved in a violent relationship, or frequently argue with your partner, there are agencies and services that can help you. You may want or need counseling to change your relationship with your partner, or you may want information on how to leave a violent relationship.

Many extended health care plans include an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), which can include counseling sessions if you feel your relationship can be saved. There are also local agencies or groups that can provide free or low cost counseling.

If you are being hit or physically abused, whether you are a man or woman, you may want to talk with a women’s shelter or other similar agency. You can get support and counseling to help manage the relationship if a partner is abusive.

Some of the local agencies that provide counseling or support for abused people in the Lower Mainland are listed in the Where to Get Help section of this resource.

If a parent is talking negatively to a child about the child’s other parents or caregivers, the parent should stop talking to the child and consider talking to a counselor or other agency instead. There are parenting groups which help parents communicate better with their child.

Physical abuse


The children most at risk for physical abuse are very young children who can’t yet talk or describe what is happening. Young children are unable to defend themselves from abuse.

The Ministry considers signs like bruises and broken bones to be signs of physical abuse. If a parent has trouble controlling angry feelings and then takes those angry feelings out on the child, the parent should talk to a counselor or program to get help. It is never acceptable for a parent to hit a child with a fist, an item like a belt, spoon, or stick, or to slap, bite, push or shake a child. This type of behaviour towards a child is a protection concern under the CFCSA.

A parent must be able to discipline a child in a fair and reasonable way if the child does something wrong. When a child misbehaves, a parent may become angry, which can make it difficult for the parent to discipline the child effectively. There are many different ways to discipline a child and these will change as the child grows up. It is important for a parent to be consistent when disciplining a child. You need to tell them why you are disciplining them. If the child misbehaves again, the consequence should be similar.

Toddlers and young children need patience and gentle guidance from a parent to help them learn what behaviour is acceptable. Older children often understand what behaviour is right and wrong but may choose to misbehave. In those cases, a parent may need to create a consequence for the child.

Parents have different methods of disciplining children but it is never appropriate for a parent to physically hit a child and say it is discipline.

Sometimes a parent may want to spank a child if they do something wrong. It is a parent’s choice to spank a child or not, but there are important legal limits about spanking. A parent must follow these specific guidelines about spanking or the parent could be charged with a crime.

A parent cannot spank a child with anything other than an open hand, and only over their clothes on their bottom. You cannot use a belt, spoon or other item when spanking a child. If a parent hits a child anywhere other than on their bottom, hits a child with a closed fist, hits a child hard enough to leave a mark, or spanks a child on their bare skin, the parent may be considered to be physically abusing the child. Physical abuse of a child is a protection concern under the CFCSA.

If a parent does not know any ways to discipline a child other than spanking, the parent may want to talk to a local service or agency about attending a parenting program. There parents can learn about different ways to discipline a child without using physical force.

Sexual abuse or exploitation

A parent must protect a child from sexual abuse or exploitation. Sexual abuse occurs when a parent or other person touches a child sexually. It is never appropriate, under any circumstances, for a parent to use a child for sexual pleasure; this is considered a child protection concern under the CFCSA.

Sexual abuse can include:

  • touching the child in a sexual way,
  • having the child touch the parent in a sexual way
  • making the child watch pornographic videos or read pornographic magazines or books and
  • creating pornographic pictures or videos of the child.

This type of contact is not only a child protection concern, but is also a serious crime under the Criminal Code of Canada, and can result in criminal charges against the person who sexually abuses the child.

A parent who has sexual feelings for a child must immediately tell a trusted person, get counseling, and avoid any sort of sexual contact with the child at all times. It is not appropriate for a parent to act on these types of sexual feelings even once.

Sexual exploitation occurs when a parent allows the child to be involved in activities that involve the child in sexual activity. Such activities can include:

  • encouraging or making the child engage in prostitution
  • allowing the child to be involved in the making of pornographic pictures or videos and
  • allowing another person to have any sort of sexual contact with the child.

These are all child protection concerns under the CFCSA.

There will be times when a child is away from their parent. Sexual abuse may happen when the parent is not present. It is important for a parent to take steps to help the child if the parent learns that a child has been sexually abused. The parent should call the police or other authorities to report the abuse.

The parent should make sure the child is safe and will not have further contact with the abuser. The parent should also have the child examined by a doctor to ensure that the child does not have any physical problems as a result of the sexual abuse.

The parent should also find out if the child should have counseling or other therapy to help the child deal with the abuse. If a parent does not care appropriately for a child after the abuse, this could be considered neglect under the CFCSA.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by People's Law School, 2014.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence Basics of Child Support in BC © People's Law School is, except for the images, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.
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